I can still remember the smell of the University classrooms even now. So different to those from my school. The musty, old and dated carpet and the ancient desks and chairs that filled classrooms that seemed to magically appear behind the closed doors along the never-ending corridors. It was completely different from the spacious hallways lined with cupboard-sized lockers that I had experienced in my secondary years. I felt grown up and mature to be joining the ranks of the real world, yet also terrified to be such a small, unknown fish in what felt like the ‘mother’ of all fishbowls. I was very grateful indeed to have joined the Catholic students’ group, purely to have a group of familiar, friendly faces who could usually be found sitting under a tree in our spot at the Great Court at St Lucia.
While the anonymity was deflating and lonely at times, it also had its perks. Many a Monday afternoon – the day when most of the others from the Catholic students’ group had classes – was spent chatting, laughing and even embarking on random coffee rendezvous in neighbouring suburbs. Being anonymous meant you weren’t missed if you skipped a class, which was a new phenomenon for me, given my mother taught at my high school and the prospect of ever stepping a foot out of line was not an inviting one. Now I felt free as a bird, and being one of the few in the group with a car at their disposal, I became a regular attendee of these little adventures. As was Kate.
Kate had become my car buddy – accompanying me most days on my commute to Uni. This afforded us much time to chat and get to know one another on the way, which I loved. She was so fascinating and knew so much about the wider world. Kate had previously completed a degree and was on her second one, deciding that she didn’t wish to pursue a career in her first field of study. She lived at home, as the youngest child and cherished only daughter, and did not feel any real pressure to join the workforce as yet. I knew she loved the University life, and was not in any hurry to see those days over. In retrospect, I don’t blame her. They truly are the best years of your life.
Even though we were so different, Kate and I clicked from the start. There were always plenty of people around her, and I envied the relationships that she had with her older friends. Most of these had been Kate’s friends during her first degree and had since moved on to other universities or had gained employment since graduating. Occasionally some would join us for lunch on the Great Court, if they were tutoring or still had a subject or two to complete. Mostly though, it was the newer younger group of people who were still around, so Kate – in her cool, calm, collected way – was happy to forge new friendships just like I was.
I began being invited to social events with Kate and the older group of friends who were on Orientation Camp earlier that year, along with some others Kate knew. I was such a baby when I think back, and even though I was 17, I was treated like an adult when I was with Kate. She always greeted me with a hug, and took me under her wing with her friends, introducing me and including me in conversations and activities. Kate’s house was huge and I began staying in a spare room at her place after some of these events rather than driving home late at night. Her family was very welcoming and often dropped us to the city when we went out rather than us having to find a park.
This became our regular gig. I would go to Kate’s place, ready to go out, and would chat to her as she did her make-up and hair before we left. George Michael or Hoodoo Gurus would often be playing in the background, and I would sit on her bed while she buzzed in and out getting herself sorted. Everything was right in my world when I was with her. I just felt warm, happy and like I was where I was supposed to be. It was an unusual phenomenon for me – being naturally quite a self-conscious person by nature – but one that I thoroughly enjoyed. Sometimes another friend or two would join us, but usually this was later. After a while, I grew to look forward to this ‘getting ready’ time, and perhaps if I’m honest, I enjoyed it even more than the actual going out.
We had another friend in the group, called Mark, and he too had a bit of a fascination with Kate. He was one of the ‘leaders’ of the newer group of students who attended the January ‘O’ Camp and had been the one I had asked about Kate when she first caught my attention. A regular on campus, Mark and I often found ourselves chatting about many things, Kate being one of them. Her outfit that day, her hair, her choice in musical taste – we chatted about it all. I had no experience with having a love interest, so was completely clueless about the whole ‘tell-tale’ signs. I had always had a female ‘object of my affection’ growing up, so I simply assumed that Kate was now my latest one of these. Mark, I knew, just plain fancied her. He had known her for years and Kate was close friends with both Mark’s older sisters, so he enjoyed nothing more than sharing little snippets of information about Kate with me as they popped into his head. What Mark also knew was that Kate loved him, but purely as a friend.
We became a strange little threesome.
I recall very early on after we first became good friends that Kate had a Masquerade dinner party one night. She sent out formal invitations, which were somewhat flirtatious in tone and I smiled as I read it.
The first line as you opened the invitation was, “I have a desire and I need your help…”
Mark and I were both invited and after receiving our invitations in the mail, we spent the rest of the evening giggling together excitedly over the phone as we planned outfits and wondered what the evening would be like. We had both rolled our eyes affectionately at Kate and her affinity with ‘desire’, vampires and simply being a tease. The invitation had elements of all of the above and we were delighted to indulge her. It was one of the things we both found most attractive about her. Kate made you want to know her ‘other side’ – to be that person who was closest to her. On a certain level, and because of this, Mark and I came to feel a level of competition between us over gaining her affections. Ultimately she was an introvert – and allowed you only ever to see the parts of her she felt comfortable sharing.
I had never had a friend like Kate before, and even though I knew it was different, I just thought that’s how some adult relationships were. Kate and I both went out regularly to meet males together, so in my young mind, that meant that everything between us was just fine and dandy.